Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bishop Darling

Its official! Barbara Darling was consecrated Bishop yesterday in front of a pack congregation at Melbourne's St Pauls Cathedral.

Barney Zwartz from "The Age" newspaper reports:
"As Melbourne's Archbishop Philip Freier presented newly consecrated Bishop Barbara Darling to the congregation, there was wild applause, topped by triumphant ululations by the Sudanese choir from her Dandenong church.

Bishop Darling, one of the pioneers of women's ministry in Australia, had just become Melbourne's first woman bishop, Australia's second (by nine days), and only the 24th woman Anglican bishop in history.

Nineteen bishops were present for the historic service, including Australia's first woman bishop, Perth assistant bishop Kay Goldsworthy, Australian primate Philip Aspinall, a former primate and Melbourne archbishop in Keith Rayner, another former Melbourne archbishop in Peter Watson, and former Governor-General and Brisbane archbishop Peter Hollingworth.

The new bishop herself could barely be heard over the pealing of the cathedral bells. "I'm excited, overwhelmed and feel very supported in prayer by many people," she said. She returns to the cathedral today to lead the communion service."

From "A Triumph of Faith" by Gary Tippet:
"When he Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, consecrated Barbara Brinsley Darling as a bishop yesterday — little more than a week after Kay Goldsworthy became the nation's first female bishop in Perth — there was special background music.

It was, in the exultant words of leading Anglican laywoman Dr Muriel Porter, the sound of stained-glass ceilings shattering.

For more than three decades, Anglican women have been battling towards such a moment and Darling, now 60, has blazed the trail. In 1975 she came to Melbourne to study for her licentiate in theology at Ridley College, the Anglican theological college at Parkville, where she became librarian and the first woman to be given tenure as a lecturer.

She was one of the "trained women workers" the Melbourne diocese set up in the early 1980s to prepare for women's ordination, one of the first women deacons in 1986, and one of the first women priests in 1992. In 1995 she was the first woman elected a clerical canon of St Paul's Cathedral where until now she has been senior canon as well as being vicar of St James' Dandenong.

For such pioneers the road has been rocky and often deeply painful. Every step has been contested and protested. In 1976, when Darling preached her first sermon at Ridley, some male students walked out. In 1986, when both she and Goldsworthy were ordained as deacons in Melbourne, there was an attempt to have their ordinations ruled invalid, along with threats of schism, court challenges and even bomb scares.

She will never forget her ordination as a priest at St Paul's in December 1992.

Yet the opposition continued for more than a decade until Dr Porter led a challenge to the Appellate Tribunal to prove that, given women could be priests, there was no legal impediment to them becoming bishops. The tribunal decided in favour late last year. It was only a matter of time before the first female bishops would be named.

The next challenge, says Darling, is how women function as bishops. Will they be doing it the same way as the men or will they bring something new and different?"

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